David and Kevin at the beach
I always wanted to have a short story section for my blog but somehow could not make one. Although it takes just a few clicks to make one 🙂 And I have also been writing short stories (still unpublished) for a book that I hope to publish one day 🙂 So when dear friend Wayne Crowning the author of Karachi Backwaters wrote one and asked it to be published on my blog, I was very excited. This is a true story about Wayne’s time spent in Karachi during the late 70’s. Wayne now lives in Canada with his family. A big thanks to him for sending this one titled “A Night to Remember” although I wouldn’t might calling it “Winds of Change” 🙂 Happy reading!
During the July 1977, school summer holidays I was looking forward to yet another picnic with David’s (my best friend) family. They were planning to immigrate to Canada in a year or two; and we were still not sure if this was to be our last picnic together. We were all set for our three night stay at the Coleman’s beach hut at Hawkesbay, Karachi. The hut was rented out by the Baptist Church, situated in Bahadurabad. One night before the picnic, David’s dad met with Pastor Coleman, to arrange and pay for the same, but not before indulging in a game of scrabble, which was customary for both men, each time they met.
The following day we got to the hut, the two loaded taxis dropped us off on the beach road. David and his brother followed us on their Vespa scooter. We, the kids were too excited to help with any unloading and rushed up to the sand dunes to get the first glimpse of the open sea. Large Monsoon waves crashed upon the sandy beach, the sun was bright and warm, perfect time for a dip in the warm waters. We even had our pet cat along, and that evening she went crazy, chasing small land crabs that burrowed in the shifting sands.
The Coleman hut was luxurious compared to some of the ones we had rented before: It was a basic concrete dwelling with two rooms, each one having bunk beds and cots, a well stocked kitchen with basic utensils and dishes, including a good supply of sugar, salt, etc, which would have to be replenished, if used by the temporary tenants. It had an asbestos roof and windows that looked out the sides and front of the hut, onto the beach. The hut was not quite big enough for all of us, two uncles; V and S, David’s mom and dad, sisters and one brother, my own family and also my cousin K who was to write his Matric Board exam the following week.
That evening we spent a short time getting settled in the hut. Food was carried from home for our first dinner. An early dinner was followed by a long walk on the beach with our cat, scurrying around the sand dunes. David, his sister E and I snuck out for a smoke, as far out of sight of the adults as we could get. The weather was perfect; a strong wind out of the South-West sent waves crashing upon the shore. We dipped our feet in the surf, enjoying the coolness of the water. We smoked some more, then headed back to the hut.
Next morning me and David were up early and stepped out for another smoke before anyone could notice. When we came back, there was a big commotion: The cat had taken a poop in Uncle S’s felt cap. Being quite bald, he was not too happy. We let the cat out for the rest of the day and later arranged a makeshift litter box, basically beach sand in an old cardboard carton. That afternoon was spent swimming, fishing and just plain lazing around in the warm sands. Although it wasn’t the perfect time of year for swimming; due to large crashing waves, the threat of being stung by Blue Bottles and carried off by strong rip currents, still it did not keep us kids out of the water. That night, the grown ups got together and cooked a simple meal of dal and rice. All looked good, weather-wise. The cat was let in, then let out, then let in again before we got ready to sleep.
Late at night, we were all awoken to the sound of heavy rain drops on the roof of the hut. Looking out the window, we noticed sheets of rain, wind had picked up, and waves grew in size, crashing closer to the hut than they normally did. The roof started to leak and we had empty pots and pans in place all over the floor of the hut to collect the drips of rain water. Some of the leaks were quite bad and were getting worse as the rain picked up. “Someone has to climb up and try and cover the roof with this!” David’s dad suggested, holding in his hand a couple of plastic table cloths. David’s older brother, my brother, David and I volunteered. We all stepped out into the stormy night, clutching the table cloths while the wind and stinging rain hitting us square in the face. We picked up a few rocks that we found near the hut and using a wooden ladder that was propped up along the back of the hut, climbed onto the asbestos roof. Here we had to fight to just stand up straight. Wind and rain now stung our faces, making it hard to even see what we were doing. We estimated the area where we thought the worst leaks were and struggled to lay down the plastic sheets, then laid some rocks around the perimeter of each one to try and hold it down, a very hard task in the driving rain. After struggling for what seemed like ages, our task complete, we caught a glimpse of an angry sea, large waves now pounded the beach, only a few meters from the front of our hut. Wind driven rain howled in our ears and had cut visibility drastically. We could not even see the beach road or more than two or three huts away from ours. Soon it began to thunder and the black night sky was illuminated by flashes of lightning: For a split second we could see clearly, each other, the roof of the hut, the ominous waves. That’s when we headed back in for safety. Our cat was petrified and hid under the bed all night.
None of us got good sleep that night; the leaks persisted, the wind howled, the rain kept up its steady pitter patter on the roof. In the middle of the night I looked out of the main window facing the beach and saw huge waves breaking outside, at times coming right over the sand dunes onto the beach road. At times, our little hut appeared to be an island floating in the middle of a huge stormy sea. Every flash of lightning turned our surroundings into a ghastly nightmarish scene, of a luminous churning sea, breaking waves and thick storm clouds; every flash of lightning was followed by loud claps of thunder. It was one scary sight.
By early next morning, the rain had stopped, the wind abated, but the seas still looked ominous. My cousin’s dad soon appeared at the door. He had come to pick up my cousin as he had to write the Matric exam in a few days and had some studying to do. He told us that most of the city had flooded, overflowing drains, downed power lines and most of the Sandspit and Hawkesbay beach roads along the coast were covered with sand, basically washed away. He also told us some startling news; our Prime Minister was overthrown that very morning. We waited another day or two to return to the city by taxi; as most of the roads were flooded.
My cousin wrote his exam, securing a First division; sadly only to pass away a year later due to kidney failure. David and his family soon left for Canada. We would not meet until 1995. In 2012 he too passed away. Recently I got the news that his dad also passed away.
Their memory will live on in my heart.
Thanks for reading!